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Pendragon 3e as Simple Starter System


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I'm considering kicking off a short (6-12 session) Pendragon campaign set around AD 531 while we wait for 6.0. I've never played or run Pendragon before.

Since I want to keep things simple, I'm looking for a version that doesn't have a lot of crunch and is easy to learn. I'm thinking of using 3rd edition instead of the 5.2 edition since my impression is that 5.2 has more rules and options and assumes an Uther-era beginning.

Anyway, is there any reason you would advise against this? I figure the 5.2 rules are more polished but that there are more of them, and since I'll be moving to 6.0 eventually anyway a 3rd edition mini-campaign would be easier to learn (and then unlearn when we move to the 6.0 rules which should have some changes).

Thanks for any feedback or advice!

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If you don't already own 3e, get 4e instead. It is basically a combined 3e basic rulebook + Knights Adventurous, and costs the same as the 3e rulebook, $9.99.
(The rule changes between 3e/4e and 5.2 are pretty minimal, in the great scheme of things. But 4e has the world information and expanded characters for AD 531, something that both 3e and 5.2 lack.)

Also, you might be interested in this thread, if you have not read it already:

 

Edited by Morien
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@Stan Shinn, If you're interested in a condensed version of the rules, you could do worse than to look at "Book of Knights", which is now available as a PDF download for a mere 3 USD (https://www.chaosium.com/the-book-of-knights-pdf/). Although there is some minor difference between these rules and the 3rd/4th/5th/5.Xth versions, they are surely minor enough tat they can be disregarded for an introductory campaign. Surely easier to learn than the full-fledged rules of any KAP edition!

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Hi Stan,

A number of random thoughts:

  • I still think King Arthur Pendragon 3rd edition is the most elegant and attractive edition of the game -- and of any RPG. (I know many people don't like the cover, but once we get inside the layout and the art is best of the bunch in my opinion).
  • As Morien points out, the game really hasn't changed much between editions when it comes to rules. (The biggest change is always how the battle system works!)
  • As Morien also points out, and as I've been saying for years, the 4th edition is 3rd edition + Knight Adventurous + a Magic System. I'm not particularly fond of the 4th edition for two reasons
    • I think a "Magic System" for KAP is nonsensical (though if you use 4th it can always be ignored)
    • The book is kind of ugly. There was no new layout done, but the pages from 3rd and KA are simply shoved together so the two very differently layout of the two books create a kind of mess in design
  • The 5th edition doesn't really have more rules or "crunch" than the 3rd edition. (Again, the core rules don't change very much.) The biggest change is in background information -- Uther's reign is default for 5th, Arthur's reign is default for 3rd.
  • All the extra crunch for 5th comes in the supplements for 5th edition which adds lots and lots and lots of extra detail. Meanwhile, the key, core supplement for 3rd is Knights Adventurous, which offers more background information about Britain and opens up possible background for knights. (In my current campaign (the GPC), I have three pagan knights and one Jewish knight, and I used KA to offer the players background information for the game. I like KA.)

That all said, if you want to get going with KAP with a minimal of fuss, I absolutely recommend using 3rd edition for the kind of mini-campaign you are planning. There is no downside, and it keeps everything to a minimum of fuss. You start in Arthur's reign. You get the kind of knightly setting and adventures people imagine when they hear "King Arthur." And you work from basic homelands and faiths so you simply get going. (While KA is great, will you really need the material? No. Especially for what you are describing.)

Your instincts seem spot on to me, and I say you are on track to getting the kind of game you want.

"But Pendragon isn’t intended to be historical, just fun.
So have fun."

-- Greg Stafford

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20 minutes ago, mandrill_one said:

@Stan Shinn, If you're interested in a condensed version of the rules, you could do worse than to look at "Book of Knights", which is now available as a PDF download for a mere 3 USD (https://www.chaosium.com/the-book-of-knights-pdf/). Although there is some minor difference between these rules and the 3rd/4th/5th/5.Xth versions, they are surely minor enough tat they can be disregarded for an introductory campaign. Surely easier to learn than the full-fledged rules of any KAP edition!

I didn't know about this! I'll definitely check this out -- thanks for the tip!

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16 minutes ago, creativehum said:

That all said, if you want to get going with KAP with a minimal of fuss, I absolutely recommend using 3rd edition for the kind of mini-campaign you are planning. There is no downside, and it keeps everything to a minimum of fuss. You start in Arthur's reign. You get the kind of knightly setting and adventures people imagine when they hear "King Arthur." And you work from basic homelands and faiths so you simply get going. (While KA is great, will you really need the material? No. Especially for what you are describing.)

Your instincts seem spot on to me, and I say you are on track to getting the kind of game you want.

This is fantastic feedback -- thank you so much! 🙂

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On 6/3/2022 at 3:26 PM, Stan Shinn said:

I didn't know about this! I'll definitely check this out -- thanks for the tip!

Leafing quickly through my copy of Book of Knights... yeah, you could, in principle, play the game with just this and nothing else, as all the rules* (except maybe some solos) are in there. (* Caveat about Characters: it is 4.5e, so the characters start out significantly stronger than in 3e/4e and even 5e, I'd argue, as they get three yearly trainings per year of squiring, rather than just one; also, the Luck Table is a bit more generous at places, like 1d6 healing potions instead of just one). However, in order to cram all those rules into a one tight package, some of the explanations and examples have been dropped, in particular concerning individual Traits and Passions (one short sentence each to explain them) which are at the heart of Pendragon. It might be a very good "Player's Book" to supplement the 4e, but especially for a new GM, the full 4e would be worth the extra 7 dollars, IMHO. Just having the Bear Hunt and the White Horse adventures to start with would be worth something already, not to mention a much expanded monsters and other opponents section. And maps (& Lands section) are nice, too. Family history and family generation as well.

For a one-shot game to see if your friends might be into KAP, sure, you could hedge your bets and go with this, but for even a mini campaign, I'd want 4e.

Edited by Morien
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Book of Knights has one solid addition to character generation that I really like: Glory from the person who knights you.  This is both true to historical reality and, more importantly, is something that comes up in the literature.  I’m going to add that to my game when Arthur “introduces” chivalry.

But overall, I think 4e is the better bet (although creativehum is 100% right that the way it’s put together is ugly and off-putting).  Aside from what has already been said about it, it has several short adventures (originally from 3e) with advice about how you could link some of them into a longer adventure, which would give very much the sort of episodic picaresque feel that many medieval romances have.  

And for any PC from default Salisbury, there’s a very nice little family history generator that will help get players into the setting.  And although it’s geared to Salisbury, it could be used for many other places in Logres without needing any real adaptation, allowing one to use at least a few of the alternate locations with it for PK origins.

If you run out of material from 4e and your players are hooked, there are excellent collections of published adventures from the 3e/4e era, all available cheaply as PDFs.  I’d cautiously suggest Perilous Forest as being particularly suitable for a minicampaign (which not to say that it’s the best IMO or anything like that).  It’s a geographically contained sandbox-y affair in which the player knights are supposed to wander around northwest England in search of adventures.

Edited by Voord 99
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21 hours ago, Voord 99 said:

ook of Knights has one solid addition to character generation that I really like: Glory from the person who knights you.  This is both true to historical reality and, more importantly, is something that comes up in the literature.  I’m going to add that to my game when Arthur “introduces” chivalry.

Interesting. How many glory points? Canonically, you could be blamed (ie honor loss) if the new knight became some felon. Hard to quantify however.

Otherwise, yes, the third edition is probably the best to play a short campaign. It's my favorite edition btw.

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Actually, now that I reread the rules, it appears that it’s supposed to be Glory that bachelor knights get from their liege, not from the person who knights them.

However, I’ll be adapting this for the above purpose nonetheless.  It’s 1/100th of the Glory, capped at 1000 (for King Arthur).  That seems reasonable enough, and not likely to cause too much Glory inflation.

And there are definitely some good story possibilities in the fact that when you knight someone, you’re vouching for their honour…

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